Thursday, 6 December 2018

Extra virgin olive oil- Healing remedies of the Sabine Hills

We had to climb a mountain to get some rutin (ruta) leaves so we could make a healing lotion using our local extra virgin olive oil. It was absolutely worth it!
View over the Sabine Hills from Monte San Martino
The first time Sally and I tried to climb Monte San Martino, starting at the '4 winds' 'i quattro venti' crossing, we came across a huge herd of what seemed like giant goats. We called out for the shepherd and our only response came from two large sheepdogs, who definitely did not want us to understanding the message, we retreated to safer ground. 

The next time we climbed this mountain to visit the ruined monastery perched on it's peak, we organised a group of 20 friends to come along for a picnic ( and as potential goat protectors) and of course did not see one fierce goat on the whole trail! 
Meeting some of the curious locals ( luckily only sheep this time!)
View from the top over the medieval village of Fara Sabina
Ruined monastery walls where the rutin plant grows

We have returned several times and have always enjoyed the spectacular views from the top. It is really magical. On our second trip with friends, we also learnt all about this 'magical' plant called Rutin that is said to have amazing healing properties. The rutin, ruta plant grows in abundance near the ruined monastery and we were given a local recipe on how to make this healing lotion: "place a couple of small branches of Rutin, (found next to the ruined monastery on a local hilltop) in a sealed container and cover with extra virgin olive oil, for 6 weeks. Then take out the plant and the lotion is ready". Extra virgin olive oil has the ability to absorb the healing properties (and smell) of the rutin plant ( as with other plants or herbs). Rutin is said to be great for circulation and also used as an anti-inflammatory ( only to be rubbed into the skin).
The smell of this plant so bad ( I agree, it really stinks) that it is said to have been used in medieval times, to keep witches away!

Author's note: This information about the healing properties of Rutin was given to me by one of our local ladies, Signora Lina, and not to be taken as a medical fact. As with all topical lotions using natural herbs and plants, please use with great caution. Rutin maybe good for your circulation but it can also irritate the skin.

Come along and visit this area, the Sabine Hills, with Sally and I, on a Convivio Rome Italian Cooking Holiday or a One Day Cooking Class, or Half Day Olive Tour or Wine Tour. There is so much to show you in this undiscovered land.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Chef Guido's Pumpkin Risotto, the perfect Autumn dish

Autumn in our family home is a time of evening fires, roasted chestnuts, warm soups, country walks and foraging. The leaves are changing colour and falling from our local fig and walnut trees, near our home in the Sabine Hills. There is a crispness in the air in the mornings and evenings but the days are still warm, so a wonderful time to enjoy living in the countryside.

Autumn (also called Fall) is a natural time of letting go and getting organised (think of trees dropping their leaves and animals getting organised for hibernation), and being Italian, we also think of the wonderful seasonal foods we can now enjoy.

Today, I want to share my favourite family recipe for pumpkin risotto, with you. I am sure you will love it.

Risotto alla zucca e rosmarino - Serves 6-8
500 g of 'Arborio' or 'Carnaroli' rice, slice of pumpkin, 50g of butter, 1 cup of grated grana cheese, a small onion, white wine, fresh rosemary, grana padano cheese.

Make your own vegetable stock by placing a peeled whole onion, whole carrot and a stick of celery in a separate large pot and bring to the boil. Keep this vegetable stock simmering as you make your risotto.
Finely chop the onion and gently fry it in butter. Add diced pumpkin. Add rice and let it fry with all other ingredients for a minute or two, always stirring. Pour in a little white wine and let it evaporate. Pour enough boiling vegetable stock to cover rice. Add a little salt. Stir rice occasionally. Add more boiling stock when necessary. Check salt and add more if necessary. Add chopped rosemary ( amount to your taste). When rice is 'aldente' (cooked but firm) add grana cheese and stir vigourously.
Serve immediately.
Buon Appetito.

We would love to hear from you: Once you have made this recipe, please let me know what you think.  Leave your comment here, or contact Chef Guido on

Friday, 19 October 2018

Spaghetti alla Carbonara, as shared on American TV

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a classic Roman recipe that is fast and relatively simple. In my Italian cooking classes over the years, I have found many cooking guests are pleasantly surprised at how easy this delicious recipe is to replicate at home. 
Here are some of my tips, to ensure the success of this traditional dish, as revealed by Carol, one of our valued ex-cooking guests on American Fox2TV
Thank you Carol for spreading the word. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Rome Wineries and Wine Tours in the Sabine Hills in Italy

The smell of wine wafts from home cantinas ( wine cellars) as we wander around the cobbled streets of our medieval hilltop village. The vendemmia is about to begin and local families are cleaning out wine barrels, preparing for the new harvest. We breathe in deeply and appreciate the smell we associate with early Autumn, in the Sabine Hills.

Less than an hour north of Rome, still undiscovered by mass tourism, lies a green and fertile region called the Sabine Hills. Here, wine (as well as olive oil) has been produced for millennia and greatly appreciated in ancient Rome. The River Tiber, which eventually reaches Rome, provides the perfect soil composition for winemaking. Today, a small number of boutique wineries have emerged, thanks to the passion and creativity of their owners.

Some grapes that are grown here may be unusual, but they are the result of a process which involves reviving ancient traditional Italian varieties

The Italian Government has ruled that Sabine Hills 'D.O.C.' (Controlled designation of origin) wine should be a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes for red wine and Malvasia and Trebbiano for white. The local wineries also produce other blends of predominantly Central Italian grapes and also a range of single-grape wines. Visiting these Sabine Hills wineries is a wonderful experience and an opportunity to witness how wine is made naturally on a small scale, in a beautiful environment. All wines can be purchased at the wineries.

Tenuta di Rome Wine Tours: The winery that we visit during our Rome Wine Tour produce high-quality wines, on 111 acres of land. Apart from DOC Sabine Hills wines, this winery also produces excellent single-grape wines, including Syraz, Sangiovese, and Falanghina, a traditional white grape from the south.
In the cellar, there are about 400 barriques (small french oak barrels) and a number of large, traditional Italian oak barrels. There's even a mini-museum where ancient winemaking tools such as timber presses, vats, and barrels from at least 100 years ago are displayed.
It is absolutely worth a visit. Rome Wine Tours

Colli Sabini
This winery is, in fact, a cooperative of small local wine producers. At Colli Sabini they are dedicated to producing excellent quality Sabine Hills DOC wines, and they have been the first winemakers in the area to be granted this 'stamp of quality', already by the 1970s. The Colli Sabini winery also has an interesting range of grappa, based on the distillation of grapes that are already used to produce wine.

Poggio Fenice
Back in 1974, a Scottish agronomist named Colin Fraser fell in love with the region and started a vineyard near the Village of Rocca Sinibalda. Today, the vineyard has been left in the hands of an Italian family of winemakers. Their passion is to produce slightly unusual wines, including Verzellino, which is white wine made out of the Sangiovese red grape and Cardellino rosé. Of course, the more traditional varieties, such as Sangiovese and Montepulciano, are also present.

Sabine Hills Winery Tours
Wine Tours Rome runs Sabine Hills winery tours in English, which include pick-up and return service to Fara Sabina Train Station (39 minutes from Rome Tiburtina train station). A winery tour, olive oil tour, or a visit to the Sabine Hills can easily be done as a day trip from Rome.

How to get to Sabine Hills from Rome
Fara Sabina is the main railway station for exploring the Sabine Hills wineries. A direct train departs every 15 minutes from several stations in Rome (Ostiense, Trastevere and Tiburtina) to Fara Sabina-Montelibretti station. At the Fara Sabina station, we will meet you and drive you to our local winery as the first stop of your Half Day Rome Wine Tour, with us.

If you are travelling with a car, the Sabine Hills is a beautiful place to base yourself, as there is so much to see and do.

©  Guido Santi of Wine Tours Rome, winery tours in the Sabine hills, near Rome.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Toffia Summer Festival. Discover this medieval hilltop village, near Rome in Italy

Toffia dates back to 930AD. When you wander around the cobbled streets you see it's amazing history come alive. Nowadays Toffia is the home to just over 1,000 residents and is one of the most active and well kept medieval hilltop villages in the Sabine Hills, near Rome. This video, taken during the Toffia Summer Festival this year, gives you a taste of our beautiful and authentic village.

You stay in the heart of these ancient walls during your 3 and 5 night Italian Cooking Holidays and Culinary Vacations with Convivio Rome. 
For our 2018 and 2019 Cooking Holiday dates can be found here.
More information can also be found on our Convivio Rome website.

Enjoy the video.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Best Rome Day Trips - Easy and Fun Day Trips from Rome

When planning your trip to Italy, Rome is top of the 'list' for tourists to visit. But once you have 'done' the major sights in the beautiful Eternal City, where would you go to take a day trip into the Rome countryside?
The train system is very efficient in Italy and you do not have to travel far to experience something authentically Italy and have a great day out.

As it is often hard to choose where to go for your Rome Day Trip.....I wanted to give you 2 Guides to Rome Day Trips: We have included both Martha's Tips, called '6 Rome Day Trips' and Guido's Guide called '5 Best Rome Day Trips' ( see below):

Italian Travel Expert: Martha has a list of her favourite places to visit:

You don't have to go all the way to Pompeii to walk on ancient Roman roads, visit Ostia Antica

As an eight generation Roman, here is Guido's (my) guide on the 5 Best Rome Day Trips in the Sabine Hills and closer to Rome:

The Sabine Hills, an unknown and very beautiful place to visit- an easy Day Trip from Rome

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Martha's Visit to the Sabine Hills, just north of Rome

First stop, our local medieval hilltop village of Castelnuovo di Farfa 

It was a real pleasure introducing Martha and James, to some of the hidden villages of the Sabine Hills. We have been in contact with Martha, an Italian travel expert, for many years, but this was the first time we had a chance to show our friends around. 

Martha and James at Farfa Abbey with us

Martha has travelled to all of Italy’s 20 regions and is passionate about sharing her vast travel experiences with others. Find out what she wrote about her day with us in her newsletter:

Martha and James also visited Toffia, where our 3 and 5 night cooking holidays are held

Read about Martha and James visit on Martha's Italy

Thanks so much for coming along and it was a real pleasure showing you the Sabine Hills. We hope you will be back to join us again on your next visit to Italy.